1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dan (tribe)

DAN (from a Hebrew word meaning “judge”), a tribe of Israel, named after a son of Jacob and Bilhah, the maid of Rachel. The meaning of the name (referred to in Gen. xxx. 5 seq., xlix. 16) connects Dan with Dinah (“judgment”), the daughter of Leah, whose story in Gen. xxxiv. (cf. xlix. 5 seq.) seems to point to an Israelite occupation of Shechem, a treacherous massacre of its Canaanite inhabitants by Simeon and Levi, and the subsequent scattering of the latter. But, historically, the occupation of Shechem, whether by conquest (Gen. xlviii. 22) or purchase (xxxiii. 19), is as obscure as the conquest of central Palestine itself (see Joshua), and the true relation between Dan and Dinah is uncertain. The earliest seats of Dan lay at Zorah, Eshtaol and Kirjath-jearim, west of Jerusalem, whence they were forced to seek a new home, and a valuable narrative detailing some of the events of the move is preserved in the story of the sanctuary of the Ephraimite Micah (q.v.). Laish (Leshem) was taken with the sword and re-named Dan (see below). Here a sanctuary was founded under the guardianship of Jonathan, the grandson of Moses, which survived until the “captivity of the land” (by Tiglath-Pileser IV. in 733–732), or, according to another notice, until the fall of Shiloh (Judg. xviii. 30 seq.). Dan formed the northern limit of the land,[1] and with Abel (-beth-Maacah) was an old place renowned for Israelite lore (2 Sam. xx. 18; on the text see the commentaries). Little can be made of Dan’s history. The reference to it as a seafaring folk (Judg. v. 17) is difficult, and it is uncertain whether its character as represented in Gen. xlix. 17, Deut. xxxiii. 22, refers to its earlier or later seat. The post-exilic accounts of its southern border would make it part of Judah, and both of them are in tradition the greatest of the tribes in the wanderings in the wilderness. Dan was subsequently either regarded as the embodiment of wickedness or entirely ignored; late speculation that the Antichrist should spring from it appears to be based upon an interpretation of Gen. xlix. 17 (see further R. H. Charles, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, pp. 128 seq.).

A brief record of the Danite migration is found in some old detached fragments which K. Budde (Richter und Samuel) ingeniously arranges thus:—Judg. i. 34 (Amorite pressure); Josh. xix. 47a (see the Septuagint), 47b; Judg. i. 35. The position of Judg. xvii. seq. (after the stories of Samson) may imply that the Philistines, not the Amorites, caused the migration (cf. 1 Sam. vii. 14, where the two ethnical terms interchange). The Mosaic priesthood and the reference to Shiloh suggest that the story of Eli may have belonged to this cycle of narratives; and the spoliation of the unknown sanctuary of the Ephraimite Micah and the character of the fierce Puritan tribesmen connect Dan with the problems of the tribes of Simeon and Levi. Dan’s northern home lay near Beth-rehob, which appears to have been Aramean in David’s time (2 Sam. x. 6), and it is possible that the migration has been antedated (cf. similarly the case of Jair, Num. xxxii. 41, Judg. x. 3-5). The Tyrian artificer sent to Solomon by Hiram was partly of Danite descent (2 Chron. ii. 13 seq.; but of Naphtali, so 1 Kings vii. 14); and of the two workers in brass who took part in the building of the tabernacle in the desert, one was Danite (Oholiab, Ex. xxxi. 6), while the other appears to have been Calebite (Bezalel, ib., v. 2; 1 Chron. ii. 20). The Kenites, too, have been regarded as a race of metal-workers (see Cain, Kenites), and there is evidence which would show that Danites, Calebites and Kenites were once closely associated in tradition.

See S. A. Cook, Critical Notes, Index, s.v.: E. Meyer, Israeliten, pp. 525 seq. (S. A. C.) 

  1. On the late phrase “Dan to Beersheba” as the extreme points of religious life in Israel, see H. W. Hogg, Expositor, viii. 411-421 (1898); and for a complete discussion of the tribe, his art. “Dan” in Encyc. Bib.